“…The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history. When disaster comes, he’s there. He has a storm in his wake…” – Clive from the episode “Rose”

The “Idiot’s Lantern” is another episode that shows how the Doctor’s miscalculations handed them another mystery case to solve. The two planned to attend the “Ed Sullivan Show” but ended up in 1953 London on the eve of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation while the Wire plans to steal the faces of every viewer. The use of such miscalculations emphasizes the fact that danger follows the Doctor in all his travels. I have no complaints though because details like this make “Doctor Who”, well, “Doctor Who”.

One thing that I like about the episode is its title because it manages the information well. It immediately directs us to the meat of the episode but holds back just enough to avoid any spoilers unlike past titles like “Dalek” and “Rise of the Cybermen”. In effect, it leaves clues for us viewers regarding the narrative’s purpose of satirising society’s growing dependence on technology. TV as a symbolic technology then illuminates the “idiot box’s” influence on a world that is all too willing to cooperate in its fascist exploitation (ex. TV unconsciously moulds our views and behaviour because man is busy being entertained). Its exaggerated portrayal of faceless victims is an interesting reflection on our society thus establishes a connection between the episode and its viewers.

In mocking our society, the “Idiot’s Lantern” made implications about TV as a cult object. In cult fandom, the identity of the cult object merges with the identity of the cult viewer. In the episode, The Wire projects alien radiations from the television sets to feed on their energy while they are trapped in the screens; literally merging the viewers to TV. This shows how we are too attached to TV that we have unconsciously assimilated its culture. We have memorized the TV programs for most of the time slots, familiarized ourselves with the varying narratives and genres and know the entire cast of each TV show. All that’s left is to live in “their” world. As a result, the episode takes the narrative further and shows us how life could be in this furnished world of television.

In effect, the thematic resonance of the “Idiot’s Lantern” of excessive reliance and dependency differentiates it from the thematic resonance of harmless domesticity and familiarity in “Aliens of London”. In the latter episode, the Doctor (Eccleston) had difficulty hearing the news because no one was listening to it. Rose, Jackie and a few of their neighbours came into the flat to supposedly listen to the news but wound up talking about trivial matters. This shows the domesticity and familiarity of TV that it easily falls into the background of our daily lives. People aren’t interested to be informed but rather drown out the eerie silence of having it turned off.

Beyond these themes on reliance and familiarity, the “Idiot’s Lantern” shines on domesticity by juxtaposing the value that family has over the value we give them. In the episode, Mr. Connolly reported that everyone, even his own mother-in-law, had lost their faces all to protect his reputation. The passivity of his family, a behaviour that could have been nurtured by a patriarchal society, empowered Mr. Connolly to do such acts until his son confronted him about it.

    Eddie: …But I’ve got a position to maintain. People round here respect me. It MATTERS
    what people THINK.
    Tommy: Is that why you did it, dad?
    Eddie: What d’you mean? Did what?
    Tommy: You ratted on gran. How else would the police know where to look? Unless
    some coward told them…

But this passivity extends to the system. Detective Inspector Bishop’s solution to this phenomenon was to hide every faceless victim in a cage; alienating them from society. Again, the issues get swept under a rug. The only difference is in the causes of their passivity. D.I. Bishop, Rita and Tommy were passive because they were helpless. They had no idea of how to solve their dilemma. On the other hand, Mr. Connolly was passive because he wrongly believed that he was doing the right thing.

At the end of the episode, Rose tells Tommy to recognize Mr. Connolly as his father and save their relationship. In effect, Tommy runs after his father and helps him carry his luggage. This scene adds the cherry on top of Rose and the Doctor’s celebration of the domestic approach during a small street gathering.

On a lighter note, Rose reminded me of Sarah Jane Smith. In her travels with the Doctor, she has adopted change as her lifestyle and investigative work as her nature. Like most of the episodes, only Rose and the Doctor knew what to look for and where to look at.

I also like the scene where D.I. Bishop began questioning the Doctor but wound up being questioned. It’s fun to think of the expert (D.I. Bishop) questioning another expert (the Doctor) who makes D.I. Bishop question his expertise. Likewise, I like the scene where the Doctor sees Rose faceless and changes his entire plan. His carefree character shifts into the merciless warrior as he says “There’s no power in this world that could stop me”. I also like their growing relationship both on and off screen. On screen, Rose and the Doctor make a cute couple. Off screen, Billie Piper and David Tennant are the cutest best of friends. So I might want Rose and the Doctor together but not Billie Piper and David Tennant.

One thing I found weird was the extent of The Wire’s control on the people. The Wire deceived Magpie with the promise that she’ll release him after the Queen’s coronation if he cooperates. But the TV thrives on electricity. Why can’t Magpie simply unplug the TV sets to free him and everyone else from The Wire in the same manner that Mickey freed the students of Deffry Vale High School? But the episode’s resolution was better than “School Reunion” so I’ll let it slide. Moreover, I like The Wire’s manipulation of the people that it encountered. In reality, The Wire is weak. She only derives her power from man’s unfamiliarity towards alien species like her. This overshadows the fact that without man, The Wire will not survive.

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